US stars rake in funds for fight on malaria


June 18, 2010 Updated Apr 24, 2009 at 1:12 PM EDT

US actor Ashton Kutcher has pledged to donate 100,000 dollars he won in a bet, to help fight the spread of malaria, prompting other stars, including talk show diva Oprah Winfrey, to chip in more money, UN officials said Friday.

Kutcher, who is a vocal advocate for the eradication of malaria, won the money from CNN after the actor bet that his Twitter social networking account would have a million followers before the account held by the global television network's breaking news feed.

Kutcher -- Twitter name @aplusk -- reached the one million mark at the end of last week. The CNN feed wasn't far behind, with 998,239 Twitter followers at the time.

"A week ago Tuesday, malaria was the most often used word on Twitter as the result of the bet between Kutcher and CNN," Ray Chambers, special envoy for malaria to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, told AFP at the launch in Washington of a campaign with a strong faith-based focus to fight the mosquito-borne illness.

The tsunami of publicity from the Kutcher-CNN battle has prompted more celebrities to donate to fight malaria, said Chambers.

Oprah Winfrey and Kutcher's wife, actress Demi Moore, gave 200,000 dollars each and television-radio host Ryan Seacrest and CNN gave 100,000 each, said Chambers.

"And Ted Turner has challenged Kutcher and his followers to raise another 100,000 for nothing but nets. If they do it, Turner will have Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore over for dinner," Chambers said.

Another celebrity, producer Quincy Jones, who has long "used his fame to advocate for children", was presented at the launch of the campaign with an award in recognition of his lifelong dedication to humanitarian work.

"He was the one who inspired me to get involved in malaria," said Chambers.

"As I learned about malaria through Quincy, it really tugged at me because it's killing three times more kids under the age of five than HIV/AIDS, and it's preventable with a 10-dollar mosquito net," he said.

Accepting the award, Jones said: "It's a remarkable thing to be on the road to defeating this thing called malaria."

Insecticide-treated nets are one of the most effective ways of stemming the spread of malaria, a mosquito-born disease which kills 3,000 children in Africa daily.

The One World Against Malaria Campaign launched Friday will tap local communities' trust of and easy access to faith leaders to educate people about malaria and provide treatment and preventive tools, such as mosquito nets.

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